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News Release 857 of 966

May 25, 1994 12:00 AM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-1994-23

Hubble Confirms Existence of Massive Black Hole at Heart of Active Galaxy

May 25, 1994: Astronomers using the Hubble telescope have found seemingly conclusive evidence for a massive black hole in the center of the giant elliptical galaxy M87, located 50 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Virgo. Earlier observations suggested that the black hole was present, but they were not decisive.

This observation provides very strong support for the existence of gravitationally collapsed objects, which were predicted 80 years ago by Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity. This image shows a spiral-shaped disk of hot gas in the core of M87. Hubble measurements indicate that the disk's rapid rotation is strong evidence that it contains a massive black hole. A black hole is so massive and compact that nothing can escape its gravitational pull, not even light.

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Credit: Holland Ford, Space Telescope Science Institute/Johns Hopkins University; Richard Harms, Applied Research Corp.; Zlatan Tsvetanov, Arthur Davidsen, and Gerard Kriss at Johns Hopkins; Ralph Bohlin and George Hartig at Space Telescope Science Institute; Linda Dressel and Ajay K. Kochhar at Applied Research Corp. in Landover, Md.; and Bruce Margon from the University of Washington in Seattle.; NASA